When I was a teenager, I used to collect etiquette books.
You could find me hunting them down in thrift shops and used book stores, and I scoured the library for more, books from the 1960s all the way back to the 1890s.
All of them had rules, and I loved rules. I’m probably letting you too far into my psyche by revealing this, but I am the original Goody Two-Shoes. I never met a standard I didn’t love achieving or a rule I didn’t love following. My older and younger sisters were the rebels and I was the good girl. And when I finished following all the regular rules of home and school, I wanted more. I didn’t just read Emily Post, I wanted to be her.
Of course, looking back, what I really wanted was a sense of security.
As a teenager growing up in a conflicted environment, I wanted some way to make sense of it. Those etiquette books spoke to me of a beautiful, refined world, where everyone always knew the right thing to say, where there was always an easily defined right thing to do, and people were kind and considerate.
I imagined myself going to elegant parties in floor-length dresses and knowing the complex codes of when to drop a glove to catch a young man’s attention or flutter my fan to send a message across a crowded room. When I got caught up in junior high mean girls scenarios, I could always go back to my etiquette books and imagine myself in a world where everyone was kind and everyone was polite.
So imagine my delight to find Jesus dedicating an entire set of teachings to etiquette at parties! Jesus understands that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things in social interaction.
But if Jesus wrote in to Emily Post, I’m not sure she would agree with his rules of etiquette.Continue reading